As a child, you may have been scolded for not eating your veggies. As an adult, you may have never truly outgrown that finicky eating. If you’re like most Americans, you don’t eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. Your diet may also be lacking valuable veggie variety.
From the bitter bite of arugula to the sturdy carrot, vegetables are a menagerie of flavors and textures. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t adventurous eaters of this food group. In fact, the potato—whether baked, fried, or chipped—is the most commonly consumed vegetable in the U.S. Lettuce and tomatoes top that list, too.
This lack of variety means you may be missing out on this food group’s best feature: its nutritional content. Eating many types of vegetables can give your body the healthy boost it needs. Munch on dark greens like spinach for vitamin A and folic acid, a type of B vitamin. Or serve up some beans or peas to give your body a good dose of protein and fiber.
Eating more of and a variety of vegetables can lower your risk for many chronic diseases. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer. Veggies can also help you stay at a healthy weight. How? They’ll fill you up with nutrients, rather than the fat and calories found in less healthier fare.
Nutritional experts recommend that adults eat 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Most adults fall far short of this goal.
Wondering what a cup of vegetables looks like? You can easily measure out 1 cup of beans or chopped-up veggies like zucchini. But visualizing that cup may be harder with whole vegetables. These portion sizes are equivalent to 1 cup:
3 broccoli spears, about 5 inches long
2 medium carrots or 12 baby carrots
1 large bell pepper
1 large baked sweet potato or 1 medium baked white potato
1 large ear of corn, about 8 inches long
2 large stalks of celery
To help you gobble up more of the nutritional goodness of veggies, try these tips:
Savor the season. Fresh vegetables are cheaper and tastier when they are eaten during their normal growing and harvesting time.
Don’t dismiss frozen or canned vegetables. But be sure to buy those with little or no added salt.
Choose a different vegetable every time you go to the grocery store. Trying new veggies can expand your palate and your meal planning.
Make veggies the star of your meal. A stir-fry or soup is a good way to feature many different vegetables.
Place veggies in clear sight. Don’t bury them in a drawer in your refrigerator. You’ll be more apt to eat that cut-up broccoli, cucumber, or spinach if it’s front and center on a shelf.